On Wednesday February 26th, 2014, Chairman Fred Upton (MI-06) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (CA-33) convened a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss the implications that the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services’ (CMS) proposed changes to Medicare Part D would have on seniors. The proposed regulation would strip certain drugs of protected status in Medicare Part D, leaving consumers without access to the full range of needed medications including those prescribed for mental illnesses.
In defense of the new plan, Jonathon Blum, Principal Deputy Administrator for CMS, says that there are still several vulnerabilities that need to be addressed and the proposed changes will only strengthen the program. Those in disagreement argued that consequences such as higher premiums, increased cost, and the elimination of several protected classes of prescription drugs would be the result of the new regulations. The number of plans that seniors have to choose from would potentially decrease from 35 to just 2 and premiums would see rises of 10-20%.
Congressman Murphy (PA-18), author of the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act (H.R. 3717), stated that CMS will threaten the seniors at highest risk: that being those with a mental illness. Congressman Murphy said, ”by restricting access to certain drugs, you limit access to mental health treatment and impact increased hospital stay. Restricting the use of life-saving drugs will have huge intended consequences, including raising the suicide rate among this vulnerable population.”